FAIRFIELD'S AUCTION by Betty Jean Craige
If you have committed a murder or are planning to commit one, keep the parrot out of hearing distance. In Fairfield's Auction, Doolittle, the African Grey Parrot, unintentionally helps identify the murderer.
Fairfield's Auction, released by Black Opal Books in February of 2016, is the second novel in my Witherston Murder Mystery trilogy set in the fictive town of Witherston in the north Georgia mountains. The first, which came out in November of 2014, is Downstream. The third, Dam Witherston, will be out in 2017. All of them illustrate the idea expressed by John Muir in 1869 that "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
Ever since I moved to Georgia in 1973 I have been enchanted with the north Georgia mountains, the culture and crafts of the people there, and the thousand year history of the Cherokee civilization—and not enchanted with the north Georgia poultry industry. When I've followed a 4,000-chicken truck up the highway I've dreamed of liberating those poor caged chickens who are condemned to stay alive till they get to the processing plant and meet their maker. So in Fairfield's Auction I liberated an 18-wheeler of its "broilers." (The chickens are called "broilers" because that is their destiny.)
The parrot meets the chickens...and the mystery yields its first clue.
The predominant theme of Fairfield's Auction is a question: Who rightfully owns the relics of the past? The novel begins with an auction of Cherokee artifacts to the highest bidders, wealthy non-Cherokees. The murders begin shortly thereafter.
A major secondary theme is the importance of empathy for individuals unlike oneself, human and otherwise. So the animals who populate Witherston have names. Besides Doolittle the parrot, there are six chickens named Henny Penny, Mother Hen, Moonshine, Sunshine, Feather Jo, and Feather Jean, two nanny goats named Grass and Weed, a billy goat named Vincent Van Goat, a donkey named Sassyass, a mule named Franny, five dogs named Muddy, Gandhi, Swift, Mighty, and Sequoyah, a cat named Barack Obama, and a pig named Betty Pig. How can we not have empathy for animals who have names?
My novel is both serious and funny. With characters who are serious and funny and smart. And it is a real mystery, which the reader can figure out by paying attention to the narrative, the online newspaper, the text messages, the email messages, the songs, the maps, the wills, and the ransom note. That's how we all figure things out in today's world, from multiple sources of information.
All the reader has to do is remember that everything is hitched to everything else, one way or another.
Dr. Betty Jean Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art. She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist. http://www.bettyjeancraige.com/